Monday, November 02, 2009

“What do I want to be when I grow up? I would like to continue to work in the nonprofit world (once you go nonprofit you never go back!). I am interested in researching how entire industries and fields evolve, and in organizational leadership. I hope to work at a think tank or a nonprofit consulting firm.

And how does an MBA fit in? I hope that I’ll learn more about organizational structure and dynamics, and I’ll beef up my analytical skills.

Ultimately, to co-opt my favorite line from the movie
Notting Hill, I’m just a girl asking an MBA program to accept me….” – Future MBA Girl, 11/10/03

Just six years ago I put pen to paper (or rather cursor to screen) and started this blog. When I started it, I wanted to chronicle my journey through the MBA application process. At the time, there were less than 2 dozen MBA bloggers out there and none of them were women. I threw my hat into the ring to add some diversity to the MBA applicant voices, to have an outlet to spew my anxiety, and to help others by describing my experience. Once I got into and matriculated at school, the blog morphed into a description of my Wharton experience. After graduating from Wharton, I’d hoped to continue to share my experiences in the nonprofit consulting world in this blog. But alas, that didn’t pan out. (Obviously since I haven’t written in over 2 years.)

You see, while I was anonymous during my application process, I was completely outted once I started school. And I didn’t mind that. It was a little weird to meet someone for the first time and experience them telling me how much they love the blog, or having a friend comment on a recent post. But I got used to it. I really enjoyed writing, and I loved knowing that reading my angst was helpful to people.

But being angsty just doesn’t work once you have a job. And trust me; there have been plenty of angsty moments during my three years post Wharton. But it doesn’t seem right complaining and freaking out about work when everyone knows who you are.

So I held back. I limited the few posts I wrote to platitudes and generalities (“Consulting is sooo hard”), which wasn’t helpful – not to people reading and definitely not for me. And so I stopped writing. It wasn’t deliberate. In fact, I’ve started this LAST POST dozens of times during the last two years. But it didn’t feel right to leave the blog behind. Something always felt incomplete.

But this is my LAST POST (teardrop!).

This seems like the right time to officially close the blog. A lot has happened since I left Wharton. I went to work for a nonprofit consultant firm (Bridgespan). I remember being extremely excited for the opportunity to work for Bridgespan. And my time at Bridgespan was amazing. The work WAS hard – like other consulting firms, I worked crazy hours, I dealt with demanding teams, and I grappled with some of the biggest strategic questions facing my nonprofit clients. But I loved my clients. I worked across the nonprofit sector: public health, early learning, foundations, intermediaries, charter school management organizations, etc. And I love my colleagues; they’re some of the most passionate, smart, dedicated people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. But consulting was never supposed to be a long term thing for me. In my essays to business school, I talked about doing it for 2-3 years and moving on. And this past June, I moved on.

It was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I didn’t know what was next. I knew I wanted to work in K-12 education. I believe that the disparity in our public education system is one of the greatest civil rights issues of all time. And I wanted to contribute my skills to an organization focused on addressing education inequity in this country.

I talked to a lot of different organizations and people during my search. But throughout my search the thing I was most interested in was how to improve human capital in education. Not surprisingly, the adults in the school (e.g., teachers, school leaders) are the most important “in school” factor contributing to student achievement. Now that we know that, we can get to work articulating what it means to be an “effective” teacher. And then we can find ways to modify professional development and training to increase the pool of effective teachers out there (notice – I didn’t say get rid of bad teachers. Yes, that’s part of it. But to me, we can’t leave out PD and training. And that’s something that’s totally missing from most of conversations about teacher effectiveness).

As you can see, I’m sort of geeky about this human capital thing.

And now I get to work on it all the time. Next month, I’ll be starting work with The New Teacher Project (http://www.tntp.org/) in Louisiana. The New Teacher Project. TNTP is a national organization focus on working with districts and states improve teacher effectiveness. I can’t WAIT to start work.

So, you may be wondering why I’m ending this blog. I mean, I could write ad nauseam about education and things like the administration’s use of things like But there’s that anonymity thing. I don’t have it. And to blog like I’d want to blog, I’d need it.

I might start another blog. Even writing this last blog has reignited something. But I won’t be able to tell you where it is or what it’s about. Cuz if I told you, I’d have to kill you. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

And really I think it’s time to end the blog. After all there’s nothing “future” about me. I have my MBA. I graduated from Wharton. I became a nonprofit consultant. I did what I said I wanted to do in my business school essays. But now I’m going off plan. It seems fitting to end the blog now.

I’ve loved blogging. Thank you for reading my musings and whining. I hope it was helpful to you.

Peace out, y’all. Peace out.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

One year ago today, I was settling into a hotel room in Boston anxiously awaiting my first day of work at Bridgespan. It feels like its been longer than that.

I remember worrying about whether I could cut it as a consultant. Whether I'd be smart enough, likable enough, and of course, whether I'd wear the right shoes. I wondered if Bridgespan was the right job for me and whether I was right for it.

A year has passed and I realize that I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it - people like me! I feel like the consultant position at Bridgespan fits me like a glove and I believe I'm a valuable member of the team. And I KNOW I'm wearing the right shoes.

Despite my love for the job, the commitment to the causes we serve, and the pure adoration for the people I work with, this year has not been without its challenges. Consulting and its lingo and frameworks is not a natural state of being. I'm still learning a lot - which is great. But I still worry that I may not be learning fast enough or that my approach to the work might not be "consulting-ey" enough. I guess no matter where you are or what you do, life isn't without its anxieties.

In addition to the case in early learning, I just got staffed to an education case. We're working with a charter management organization (CMO). Bridgespan does a lot of education work, but this is my first foray into the K-12 world. My work stream (which just means the part of the case I'm working on) includes looking at school performance data. It was shocking to me to learn how poorly schools all over the country were doing. Don't get me wrong - I knew schools were bad but I had no CLUE how few kids graduate or can pass a standardized math test or have a chance of getting a college education. The stats are incredibly scary. And I also wonder about the data we collect on kids. The data I've been looking at is all about test scores - but is that the point of school really? It reminds me of the grade non-disclosure debate at Wharton (whatever happened with that - it's funny how something you care passionately about can fade from view over time... out of sight out of mind I guess). Are those who do the best on tests the ones who received the best and most fulfilling education?

But like I said - I'm completely new to the ed space. Who knows? Maybe what I learn over the coming months will make me a believer in the proof that tests matters most. Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I hope not.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Super long time - no post.

Things have been hectic at work and my refusal to get more than wireless card (that doesn't work in my apartment ) for internet has squashed my ability to blog to nearly non-existence.

I still love my job - I moved on to a new case in early learning. We're working with a nonprofit that's focused on making sure children from birth to five have the right opportunities to be successful in school and in life. What's really cool about this organization is how they approach early learning. It's not just about childcare and preschool. They recognize that MANY different factors affect a child's ability to succeed in school: their parents, the community they live in, the other adults they interact with regularly, their physical conditions of the environments they are in, etc. etc. What's really exciting about this view, is how they are working to change how people think about early child development - which I believe is critical to being able to change early learning experiences and getting more kids school ready.

I'm still in love with the Bay area - I can hardly believe that exactly one year ago I moved out here to my new home. I have to say, San Fran's weather has finally reared it's weird head. I never thought I'd say this but I miss hot and humid summers. There's something to be said for having a sticky night where you throw open the window and turn on the fan full blast and HOPE that the stickiness will subside enough to allow sleep. But something tells me if I were in a hot sticky summer I'd remember why it sucks. Funny - I don't miss the snow that way.

I am ready to move into the city though. I live in the suburbs - and despite my insistence that the commute doesn't bother me, I have to say, the commute ABSOLUTELY sucks. Especially late at night when I'm hanging out. It sucks to leave dinner at 10p knowing that I won't cross my threshold until 11p. I need to rectify that - I don't know what I was thinking. No I take that back - I liked my neighborhood - it was sanitized and safe and full of shopping. But I need to live in the city. I'm a single girl! I guess I didn't think about that when I moved a year ago. Oh well. Hopefully, this time next year I'll be in a smaller apartment that I pay out the nose for. Hey - at least I'll be in the city!

I'm not sure if I'll continue blogging. Firstly, I started this blog to talk about my anxieties about the business school application process and then my anxieties about school itself. Now don't get me wrong, I have plenty of anxieties about work. Last week for example was a particularly hard week for me. But there's something about the lack of anonymity that keeps me from blogging about that. And I don't want to blog about clients so...

And that's a nice segue to my second thought - "the seal" has been broken. People at work have discovered the blog. And they sometimes bring it up in conversation. I don't know why it weirds me out to have people at work reading the blog. People at Wharton read my stuff all the time and often commented on what I posted. But this feels different. It feels like two worlds are colliding. I feel like George Costanza ("If Relationship George walks through that door, he will kill Independent George! A George divided against itself, cannot stand!") Well not that extreme but you get the picture.

So this may be one of my last posts. Unless I can find a way to write about stuff going on in my life (and let's face it the majority of that is stuff at work) without feeling like I'm violating other people's privacy or client confidentiality or (most importantly) "the seal." We'll see.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

They say March rolls in like a lion and out like a lamb. Usually they're talking about the weather. Given the mild weather we're having in Norcal this winter, the statement doesn't seem to hold true. It DOES hold true, however, for my work life right now. Work has been a bit hectic. The last two weeks were my busiest since starting at Bridgespan 6 months ago.

I can't believe its been 6 months. Time flies. I've learned so much in the last 1/2 year. It's amazing to look at something as simple as slides to see my progress. My first deck (consultantese for powerpoint presentation) was abysmal. Embarrassing even. Now when I look at my slides, they look like other people's slides. They look like they belong in a Bridgespan deck. May seem simple - but it was definitely I had to make an effort to learn. I'm starting to feel more confident. Not because I know everything - far from it. I feel more confident because I'm starting to realize that I can learn how to be a good consultant. And I'm lucky to work at a firm that's so supportive in helping me learn how to BE a good consultant.

This week, I'm attending Bain's New Consultant Training (NCT) in Miami. NCT is an opportunity to take a step back an review some of the frameworks we learned in pre-NCT when we first started. What's great about revisiting these topics 6 months later is now I actually know what a consultant does, so it makes more sense now. It's also great to head to NCT because it's training for 25% of the Bain new consulting class from around the globe. So that means there's lots of Whartonites. It's great to run into people I haven't seen since May and catch up. Everyone looks happy - and more well rested. And it's just nice to reconnect with people with whom you shared this amazing experience. It should be a good week.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Happy new year!! Well belated happy new year, anyway. Long time, no blog.

The past month and a half have been kind of crazy. With travel and a case that's going warp speed, things have been kind of hectic. This past weekend was my birthday. The day was pretty chill. I went out with friends which was fun. I got a lot of calls, emails, and text messages which gave me the warm fuzzies. Talking to friends and family is actually the best present ever.

Work is going well. I can't believe I've been here 5 months. It's kind of flown by. I'm still 100% staffed on my case. Bridgespan (and many other consulting firms) uses a 50-50% staffing model. That means that you're often staffed on two cases. At Bridgespan our training model eases new consultants into 50-50% staffing. The case I'm on is a bit of a beast so I'm still 100%. The prospect of being on two cases is kind of scary, so I'm glad to still just be on one case.

Tonight I'm in LA. I just missed the crazy winter weather they had here last week - now things are serene and characteristically sunny. I'm getting to work more with the client, which is cool. I'm also working more on the content of the strategy (before I was working mainly on org stuff), which is REALLY cool. It's so interesting to talk about strategies and approaches that can transform peoples lives. Our client is working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalized segments of our society. They approach systems change holistically, which is unique and an extremely powerful way to approach this work. It's fulfilling to get to work on these issues.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Today as I was walking to the BART station, a familiar sight passed in front of me. An old Philadelphia street trolley was running along Market St. in San Francisco. When I saw the trolley with the word "PHILA" plastered on it, this wide grin spread across my face. I never thought I'd be so happy to see something familiar from Philly. I guess absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

This week I'm actually headed back to my former home for the Whitney M Young Jr. Conference. It'll be my second trip back since moving away. Last month I went back for a recruiting event. It was weird to be a visitor in a place I called home so many years. I know Philly like the back of my hand, so it was odd to be in a cab for once and know whether or not the cabbie was trying to take the long, stupid way to my destination. I'm still in near constant state of being lost in San Francisco - I hardly ever know when the cabbie is going the wrong way. Although the other day, I was VERY proud to be able to tell the cabbie he was going the wrong way. And on another day I was actually able to direct a tourist - sure it was only one block away, but hey, it's something.

The trip this week will feel exceptionally weird because I'll be manning a career fair booth. Being on the other side of the recruiting table is SOOO weird. People act so nervous around me, and sometimes avoid returning my phone calls and emails. I think I'm pretty approachable, so it's hard to process these reactions. And it can also be frustrating when you see people drop the ball. As a student, sometimes all it takes to make the interview list is reaching out and connecting with people at the firm you're interested in - when you don't do this it makes it hard for people to advocate for you. I remember how much I hated doing this stuff when I was at Wharton - but I still did it. It's sad to see people avoid doing it. It's like watching people shoot themselves in the foot.

So this week will feel weird. Weird to be in Philly. Weird to have people nervous around me. What I am excited about is seeing some of my old classmates. WMY is a homecoming of sorts for a lot of AAMBAA alums. It'll be great to catch up with people and hang out.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Life is good.

For the last 6 years or so, I wake up after election day pissed off and totally avoiding the news. This past Wednesday was a different experience - one I've missed. I've definitely had a bit of a spring in my step this week.

Work continues to be pretty cool, although the honeymoon period is over with the client. It's interesting to see how the team manages the client relationship and how they think about who needs to be looped in to ensure buy-in of our ideas. I'm also becoming more independent in my work. Although whenever I'm feeling super confident about my ability to do my job, something will happen to make me feel like an absolute idiot. Like earlier this week, I volunteered to do extra work. Good right? Well I just didn't get the assignment. And it felt like everyone else in the room did. Who ever made up the phrase that "there's no such thing as a dumb question" was a big ole liar, and this week, I was living proof of that. What truly sucks is I had my moment of dumbness in front of a partner. Great. Now he probably thinks I'm an idiot. Hopefully I'll be able to redeem myself.

Things are picking up socially, and I find myself totally falling in love with San Francisco. This city is wonderful - in some ways it reminds me of New York. Lots of activity at night, and a bit gritty. I love walking down the street and seeing some random group making music or dancing or whatever. But the people are so much nicer here. I really love it.

And I've committed myself to not saying no to hanging out with folks. Because I live in the suburbs, its really easy to come up with excuses to not hang out with people in the city. I've decided, I'm not doing that. So yes, it means I have to drive into the city, find parking and the like. But I think it's worth it.

I'd still like to volunteer or do some other activity, but I'm glad that my social calendar is beginning to fill.

Slowly but surely, I'm beginning to make the Bay area my new home.

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